If you’re a Christian, maybe you’ve been hearing a lot of talk about waiting lately. We are in the season of Advent, after all, a time when Christians wait for both Jesus’ birth and His second coming. Both of these things are important to the Christian life. But I’ve noticed recently that they point towards a larger trend:
God seems to like making His people wait.
Think about all the instances in Scripture where this is noticeable. God waited thousands of years after humanity’s first sin to send a Redeemer. Women like Sarah and Elizabeth waited until they were well beyond their child-bearing years before God blessed them with children. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before they finally entered the Promised Land. Jesus had been dead for two days before rising from the dead. God isn’t a God of instant results and gratification, bending to the timelines of His people—He takes His sweet time. He always hears His people’s prayers and He always makes good on His promises. But sometimes He takes awhile to do so.
And I wonder how many people in those stories shook their fists at God for His seeming lack of urgency. I wonder if His people ever lost hope that a Redeemer would ever come, if Sarah or Elizabeth ever felt that God wasn’t listening to them, if Jesus’ friends thought that their choice to follow Him was in vain when they watched Him die. Because this part of God’s identity probably doesn’t sit well with many of today’s Christians. Our fast-paced modern world has conditioned us to expect what we ask for as soon as we ask for it. Heaven forbid we wait more than two minutes for a reply to our text, or more than five seconds for a website or video to load. I think it’s fair to assume that some people lose hope if their prayers aren’t answered as quickly as they’d like.
God has been reminding me this Advent that waiting on Him is so much bigger than remembering the coming of His Son and awaiting His return. It means trusting His timing in all things, a skill I have yet to master. For the past few weeks I have been thinking and praying about my next step after my year as a missionary is over. Of course I’d prefer to have a plan well before I leave West Virginia, so I’ve been asking God to show me where He wants me next, to lead me to an opportunity that undeniably screams “This is where I want you, Erin. Go here!”
I’ve been operating under that model for the past few years, really. Asking God to paint signs in the sky for me telling me where to go next. Expecting Him to show me His way for me as soon as I start asking for it. All my questions and longings wind up being answered, but never as quickly as I want them to, and never in the way I expect. I waited a whole year after graduating to find a job in ministry, and it was a most surprising job in the most unexpected place. And my heart is happier and fuller and more at peace now than it’s been in a long time.
I think that’s often the case. We’re so desperate to find God and answers that we look for Him in big flashy things, but He usually surprises us by showing Himself to us in ways we never anticipate. Like when God came to Elijah in a tiny breeze instead of the big earthquake or great fire that he experienced earlier.
Or when He came to us not as a strong conqueror, but as an ordinary baby.
Maybe that’s why God wants us to wait. Maybe He likes to surprise us, and maybe surprises are His way of reminding us that His plans are always better than ours.
So as much as I wish I knew what was next for me, as much as I wish I knew I had my future and my calling figured out right. now., I think God is asking me to wait. He’s reminding me that I’m not meant to know what the future holds (duh). He’s showing me that He always provides for me when the time is right—not in my timing, but His. And He’s teaching me that I don’t always find Him in the ways I expect.
And I think I’m okay with that. I do like surprises, after all.